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MTG Secret Lairs caused problem for Magic judges

A new judge policy update reveals that a few Magic: The Gathering Secret Lairs have caused problems for the game's tournament officials.

MTG Secret Lair - a blindfolded judge

According to Magic: The Gathering judge Toby Elliot, the proliferation of MTG Secret Lairs with complicated art styles has caused some problems for judges and tournament officials tasked with laying down the law at serious Magic events. Apparently, the issue is Wizards’ recent practice of “really freeing up what Magic cards look like”.

As Elliot explains in the Wilds of Eldraine policy update on the Magic Judge blog, the number of interesting new MTG Secret Lair styles “is great when you are looking for sweet new treatments of your favorite Magic cards, and not so great when you have to define what constitutes a card that’s legal to play.”

The issue is that, previously, a legal Magic card was marked by having an official MTG card back (except for DFCs). Wizards has complicated that issue by printing double-sided versions of single-faced cards, first with the Cereal box Secret Lair in 2022 and now with the baseball Planeswalker cards in the Fall Secret Lair drop.

As Elliot explains, the judges’ solution has been to go “back to the drawing board”, defining all Magic cards as legal, then removing whatever wasn’t, like Heroes of the Realm cards and Un-set cards. He adds that this isn’t supposed to have actually changed the legalities of any cards. It is just intended to extend the definition of a legal Magic card to include some of the stranger Secret Lair cards that would otherwise have been legal grey areas.

Apparently, there’ll be more judge policy updates in the future, but the blog probably won’t go back to producing one every MTG set. “The fact that everything more or less held up during a multi-year hiatus suggests that maybe we don’t need quite the cadence of updates we had previously,” Elliot writes.

If you’re a fan of interesting Magic cards, you might want to check out our list of the most expensive MTG cards of all time. Or check out our top tens for the best Wilds of Eldraine Commanders and Wilds of Eldraine Standard cards. And don’t miss our MTG Arena codes guide, to pick up some free packs.